Consumer warning for online shoppers using "Bill Me Later"

October 20, 2010 "I bought airline tickets through US Air and it was one of the payment options," said Barb Weidner of Jamison, Pennsylvania. "It was very, very easy."

"Bill Me Later's" demo says it's the fast, easy secure option for online shopping. You enter your date of birth and last four digits of your social security number and you pay on your terms with no charges for at least 25 days.

"Bill Me Later" says it'll send you the bill, but Barb says she never got one. So after about two months, she called the company.

"They couldn't give you any information on the phone, wouldn't tell you how much you owed nothing," Barb said.

When she finally did get a bill, Barb says it showed three months worth of late charges and a threat to send her to a collections agency.

And Barb says her subsequent bills also came late, whacking her with even more late fees

"That just baffles me that they can get away with doing that," Barb said.

That was a few years ago, but many customers with recent experiences are baffled, too.

"They keep sending me bills so now the fees are over like $230," said Kathleen Reilly Thompson of Birdsboro, Pennsylvania.

Kathleen's purchase was only $90.

"These fees are exorbitant," she said.

"Bill Me Later" is a PayPal company that was acquired by eBay two years ago. Its fine print says the APR is 19.99-percent.

But consumer advocates say they've heard from people who've ultimately been charged much more.

"When you add the effective penalties and other surprise charges, people have estimated 70-percent, even 100-percent interest," said David Butler of Consumers Union.

"Bill Me Later" is now defending itself against a class action lawsuit. The law firm that filed it alleges the company's interest and fees amount to illegal behavior.

"We've also seen Bill Me Later charge consumers, for example, late fees of $19 on a $20 outstanding balance," said Jeff Friedman who is a consumer attorney.

"Bill Me Later" says it believes the lawsuit is without merit.

Meantime, consumer experts have another word of warning.

"When you sign up for "Bill Me Later", you're essentially signing up for a line of credit that requires a credit check, which can affect your credit score," said Butler.

And as far as its customer service:

"It's very frustrating. I'm at wit's end. I feel like I've been trying to do the prudent thing by disputing it and I've gotten no response from them whatsoever," said Kathleen.

"Bill Me Later" says it cannot comment on customer accounts but can say it recently changed its late fee amounts.

As of late August, it charges $25 or $35 for certain subsequent late payments.

As for allegations the company fails to send bills on time or at all? The company says statements are mailed out at least 21 days prior to a customer's due date.

As far as other alternative payment methods, Consumers Union's David Butler says, "There are some single use credit cards; there are some services that may have more flexible terms and small penalties to consider. But in every case, there's usually some fine print you've gotta consider before you sign up. Try to consider if you can actually save the money on your own and then purchase the product outright."

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